Category: honey

Grandma Dotty’s mini honey cakes.

Each year I do a lot of Easter recipes for you guys. Tons of cute little cupcakes & muffins & stuff. But this year, I wasn’t really feeling it. I know for Sunday’s dinner I’ll probably make little bunny cupcakes or flowery cupcakes or something… but in the weeks leading up to it this year, I didn’t have it in me.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe.

It’s probably because of the passing of Grandma Dotty. Its had us pretty down lately. And we’ve been spending a lot of time looking through her photos, going through her things, and reading those hand-written recipes.

So I figured why not make one of her recipes?

The one that immediately jumped out at me with Passover being here was the honey cake. Honey cake is a very popular & beloved item in Jewish cooking. Usually it’s made for Rosh Hashanah, sometimes Purim. Here’s a little more about the honey cake tradition:

Luckily, honey cake is dripping with tradition. Variations of honey-sweetened desserts have existed for thousands of centuries and in far-flung locales, from Ancient Egypt and Rome to China. Recent archaeological discoveries of beehives in Tel Rehov, Israel, also suggest that biblical Israel was indeed a land of milk and honey. According to Stephen Buchmann’s book, “Letters From the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind” (Bantam, 2005), German-Christian pilgrims developed a taste for honey cake on their trips to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. They enjoyed the dish enough to take it home, where it developed over time into its contemporary form.

Not surprisingly, the first Jewish honey cakes (or lekach, which comes from the German word lecke, meaning “lick”) originated in Germany around this time. During this period, the dessert was primarily eaten on Purim and Shavuot and sometimes served as a treat for young yeshiva students. As Gil Marks notes in “The World of Jewish Cooking” (Simon & Schuster, 1996):

“Honey was smeared on a slate containing the letters of the alphabet and the child licked them off so that the ‘words of the Torah may be sweet as honey.’ Afterward, the aspiring scholar was presented with honey cakes, apples and hard-boiled eggs.”

From Germany, the dish traveled to Eastern Europe, where Jews celebrated with honey cakes at simkhot (happy occasions) and holidays alike. According to Marks, the overall use of honey as an ingredient declined in Eastern European cooking during the 17th century but remained popular in Jewish cuisine.

-Source

Now, the fact that it’s leavened & includes wheat flour & confectioner’s sugar (among other “chametz“) would generally rule this cake out for Passover enjoyment. But since I’m not Jewish by birth nor am I (or Jay) religious in any capacity, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m doing this as a tribute to Dotty, not a religious symbol.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe turned into mini cakes.

If you’re Jewish & you’re obeying the laws of Judaism, you know whether or not it’s okay to eat. Maybe wait until after Passover to try it? Or flex your culinary muscles by altering the recipe to use almond flour or matzoh meal? Alternately, they also make delicious little Easter cupcakes. Honestly they’re really great for any occasion. Even just an average Friday.

I used Langnese, an imported German honey in them, but Golden Blossom would taste great too ’cause of the orange. Just be sure to use a REAL honey. A lot of the honey you find in stores today is just high fructose corn syrup mixed with a little honey.

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Four & Twenty Blackbirds baked in a salty honey pie.

A few months ago, back during the height of “pie season”, my mother sent me a link to Daily Candy that featured this pie. The name intrigued me: Salty honey pie. Sounded awesome. As far as I’m concerned salted anything is pretty delicious- salted caramel, salted chocolate, etc.

I know of this pie shop & the name is pretty awesome. Not only that, but the cover of the book is awesome too:

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie book.

So anyway, now that the holidays have wound down & I’m not on a baking schedule of specific traditional treats, I thought I’d make this salted honey pie & see how it is. See if it lives up to the idea of deliciousness that I (& everyone else) has in my head. I made it twice (this is the second one). The first one didn’t look that great because I used a larger pie plate than I should have for the sake of convenience, and the crust slid down into the filling. This one was ultimately the better-looking one, so aesthetically speaking it “won.” However both tasted fantastic.

Salty honey pie recipe from Four + Twenty Blackbirds pie shop.

I think it’s Jay’s new favorite pie.

And I am always, ALWAYS bad at pie crust. Always. I just can’t get it perfect, ever. Oh well.

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Medicinal pickled garlic & other hippie stuff.

As loath as I am to label people, I admit at times it’s easier to put people in categories or boxes. So I have to say: I’m not a hippie. I’m pretty far from a hippie, really. Just because I like growing my own vegetables, walking barefoot most of the time & making my own bread doesn’t mean I have any hippie-ness in me. I’m quite the opposite- I’m all spikes, short hair (sometimes I’m known to rock a mohawk), heavy boots & black eye makeup/nail polish. Being a punk rock fashionista who went to school for fashion design, for me hippies were always dirty druggies who didn’t have enough self pride to shower, wear bras, style their hair or wear shoes that weren’t Jesus sandals. Although the questioning of authority part & “tree-hugging” things are just fine with me, there are other parts of the ethos I just can’t dig on, man.

And the clothes?

A bunch of hippies, doin' their hippie thing.

Ugh.

However, making your own everything, also known as D.I.Y., is a HUGE thing to me. I’ve been doing it for years; from cutting & dying my own hair, to making clothes & accessories & jewelry to the hand-painted cloth punk rock band patches/t-shirts I was known for creating in high school. It was only once I got into cooking & baking that I started making my own foods; pickles & jams, salad dressing, infused oils, drying my own herbs, and harnessing the power of things like vinegar (it cleans & cures EVERYTHING!). So if that alone makes you a hippie by definition, then… I guess I really am one.

I just dress better than most.

Medicinal pickled garlic- get rid of that congestion!

But then again my mother is kind of a hippie. A well-dressed hippie who wears J. Crew & Ann Taylor with ballet flats, that is. She always prints out for me or forwards me interesting articles, homemade medicines, tinctures, recipes or blog posts. Most of the time, it’s stuff she wants me to make for her, but other times it’s how-to’s, tutorials, craft ideas, etc. Recently it was a blog post from Cheryl’s Delights about medicinal pickled garlic (which is stinkier & not nearly as fun, one would imagine, as medicinal marijuana- but not that I’d know from experience). The recipe comes from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. According to that book:

“Garlic is the herb of choice in treating colds, flu, sore throats and poor or sluggish digestion… makes a potent internal and external antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial agent effective for treating many types of infection.”

The benefits of garlic are too long to list here, seriously. But I do suggest you go take a quick gander at the Wikipedia entry, so you can get a basic idea of just how good for you it really is. And if you’re not a fan of garlic breath you can take garlic supplements. However, if you’re pregnant, you might want to avoid taking garlic supplements, or at least talk to your doctor about it, as it can cause an increased risk of bleeding.

So anyway, my mother prints out the blog post, and I knew she wanted me to make her a jar of this. Seeing as how I’m the “pickling queen” around these here parts, and also probably because I’ve got more jars than I need at any given moment (which means plenty to spare), I knew it just made sense. The recipe seemed easy enough so I made a small 4 oz. jar of it as a test. Also because at the time, I only had two bulbs of garlic, I didn’t want to use up both of them and one bulb just filled that jar.

Medicinal pickled garlic.

I’ve only just started this batch exactly a month ago, so I haven’t had a chance to get to part 2 (the honey part). I’ll probably do that some time this week.

It’s kind of a shame I didn’t know about this over the winter, since garlic is supposed to help with colds & flu… not to mention vampires. Although I wouldn’t mind some of those. Anyway, the deal is, this is supposed to preserve all the benefits of fresh garlic without the really harsh bite fresh garlic can have. Apparently it’s much milder this way and you can eat it out of the jar like candy. If candy tasted like garlic. Which it really doesn’t. I love garlic, but let’s face it, it ain’t exactly a Snickers bar. And that’s precisely why I prefer my garlic roasted, or sauteed, or in sauce, etc.

I’ll skip the raw garlic, thanks. My mom will be the guinea pig with this one.

Medicinal pickled garlic.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Fill a jar with peeled fresh cloves of garlic (any size jar).
  2. Pour raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (I used Bragg’s) over the garlic until it’s “covered.”
  3. Put lid on the jar & leave jar in a warm place for 3-4 weeks.
  4. After 3-4 weeks, strain off the liquid into a glass measuring cup. Set aside half of that liquid to use in another capacity (quick pickles, marinades, salad dressing, etc).
  5. Take the remaining half and pour it into a saucepan with an equal amount of raw local honey. Heat over a very low heat, no more than 100° F so as not to kill the good stuff in the honey, stirring until the vinegar & honey are mixed.
  6. Pour that mixture back over the garlic. Allow to sit for ANOTHER 3-4 weeks, it should keep for a year.
  7. Eat!

Just so you know, however: the garlic might change color, to a green or a blue. This is totally normal & is quite common in pickling (for example, click here). It’s harmless & doesn’t effect the flavor or safety of the product- it’s just a chemical reaction. If you need proof, here’s a webpage from the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences explaining the exact reason behind it. These photos were taken shortly after making them, but within a week some of the cloves were greenish blue. I PROMISE YOU, as strange as it looks, it is 100% fine to eat.

Pickled garlic using raw apple cider vinegar & raw local honey- it's not just food but medicine.

So when it’s all said & done, I’ll pass it on to my mother, and she’ll let me know how it is so I can update you all. Until then, if you’re into more homemade medicinals or folk medicines, try these: lemon-&-spice-infused honey to prevent colds & flu, homemade Neosporin, homemade cough syrup, and homemade Vapo-Rub.

Ya damn hippies.

Leftover blackberry honey syrup.

Don’t you love when you’re reading an old book & the author wrote it as ‘sirop’? It’s so old timey or foreign. I know sirop is the French way of spelling syrup, but it seems that a lot of books written in the 1700′s or 1800′s write it that way, too. Makes sense since it comes from the Latin ‘siropus.’ But anything written in another language (or in an old way) is more attractive. Like, for example, this recipe would be ‘Sirop de mûres e miel’ in French. So lovely.

Are you tired of my history of language lesson yet?

Blackberries always intrigued me. I’m not a fan of the flavor of berries, let’s just get that out in the open right now. I can tolerate strawberries, but I’m not a huge fan by any means. I’m a big apple girl (both figuratively & literally- I  NY, too) and I love citrus. Berries? Nah. Not for me. But regardless, I love looking at them, touching them, cooking with them. I come from a family of berry fiends… which is good, because I get to satisfy my curiosity without wasting food. I didn’t grow up near a blackberry bramble. There are no wild berries growing in my yard, however we did have a flowering crabapple tree. My berry encounters were not on a farm or in the wild country, but supermarkets & restaurants & as the flavoring in gum. Blue raspberry anything still makes me queasy to this day, by the way.

I came up with this idea because after finishing that blackberry whateveryouwannacallit thing I made, I had some blackberries left over. Not enough to make into a jam, really, unless I made about 4 ounces, and that’s not really worth the trouble. It was pretty much a decent-sized handful of big, juicy berries. And blackberries don’t last long, as you probably know. So I figured I’d make them into a syrup using some honey.

Waste not, want not.

I didn’t use a recipe, so I honestly have no idea what measurements to tell you to use. You aren’t going to be canning this; it’s just for immediate use or storage in the refrigerator, so there’s no concern about adding acidity or the amount of sugar, etc. The more honey you add, the more syrup you’ll get. The more berries you add, the more syrup you’ll get. I made it about even, which gives a stronger berry flavor. If you have more honey than berry, the flavor will be more honey & vice versa. You get the idea.

You can use it for pancakes/waffles, you can stir a little bit into some lemonade & toss in some whole berries for a nice summer drink or use it as the base for a cocktail. I’m sure a lighter bourbon like Basil Hayden’s would be interesting mixed with a bit of this. Also, use it as a salad dressing base: mix it with a little red wine vinegar & olive oil, you’ve got yourself a blackberry honey vinaigrette. Even better, mix it with some blackberry vinegar, if you’ve got it.

Keeping all that in mind, this is what I did:

  • I rinsed off & dried the berries. Only do this right before using them, or else you’ll end up with moldy fruit.
  • I put the clean fruit into a medium saucepan and mashed them with a fork. It’s not necessary to make sure they’re completely smooshed- just enough to release a bit of juice.
  • I added about a half cup of honey (more is fine), and turned on the heat to medium-low, stirring with a wooden spoon so nothing scorches.
  • Keep stirring and gently mashing the berries, incorporating them with the honey. The mixture should be a reddish color now. Keep cooking & stirring.
  • Cook, stirring pretty frequently, until it’s reduced & thickened slightly, and it’s a dark, foamy syrup with little round berry bits & guts in it. Don’t worry, you’re straining that out.
  • Add a dash of pure vanilla extract and stir well. Almond extract works too, but nothing at all is fine. The blackberry honey flavor is enough!
  • Clean a jar, put it on a tea towel on your counter or table and place a strainer over the top. Depending on the amount of berries/honey you’re using, you might need a pint jar. Pour the mixture into the strainer little by little, pressing down with a rubber spatula to extract more syrup. When all the syrup is out of it, scoop it into the garbage and pour more of the mixture in, then repeat.
  • Once you’re finished, place a lid on the jar and let it cool. Once cooled, refrigerate or use immediately.

It’s insanely simple, and it makes use of even the smallest amount of leftover blackberries. I’m pretty sure it would work with blueberries or raspberries as well.

Also? It’s pretty.

Leftover blackberry honey syrup

Flu fighting sorbet, anyone?

Now that Valentine’s Day is over & there’s one whole month until you’ll be ingesting green beer, feel free to get sick. No seriously. After reading this post, you just might not mind it so much. Okay… that’s a lie. You will. But at least this will ease your suffering just a bit.

A couple of years ago, on a hot summer night, me & my other half were being lazy, drinking some beers & watching a show on either the Food Network or the Travel Channel & it just so happened that on said show they featured Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. We were immediately attracted to the variety of hand-crafted ice creams & sorbets; specifically the ones like the cherry lambic sorbet & the whiskey pecan. Unfortunately we don’t live in Ohio, and it was the peak of summertime so there was no way we’d chance having ice cream shipped to NY, dry ice or no dry ice. And even if we had, it wouldn’t have arrived that night! So we were two sad pandas.

Cut to about two or three weeks ago… I discovered the newest thing in sorbets: the influenza sorbet. Genius! We’ve all been sick here on and off all winter, with either a mild flu-ish thing or a stomach thing or some other weird thing that gave us insane headaches, and I wish I had had some of this on hand. The idea of a FLU FIGHTING SORBET!? Holy balls. I love it. Now, apparently, the company has changed the name to the Hot Toddy sorbet because seemingly there were some idiots who thought either the sorbet contained the flu or actually cured the flu. But either way the concept & ingredients stayed the same! Orange & lemon juice, honey, ginger, cayenne pepper and of course, Maker’s Mark. Perfect for when your throat starts to hurt, and you can’t keep anything heavy down. An icy cold citrus-y delight, with a hit of bourbon & ginger, and cayenne pepper so subtle you probably won’t even know it’s there. But at $12 a pint, and it being all the way in Ohio… I knew I wasn’t getting my hands on any.

I decided I was going to come up with my own recipe and make my own version of Jeni’s infamous flu sorbetto.

But see, I don’t have Maker’s Mark. I have other bourbons. So I used Basil Hayden’s bourbon instead, because it’s a milder one, and I’m not such a crazy bourbon fan. I’ve gotta say though.. the idea of it this sorbet made me really happy. Really, really happy. And Jay has quite the selection to choose from… but I chose Basil. Of course, this is NOT Jeni’s recipe, this is my own creation. And it can be tweaked to accentuate whatever ingredient you want to be the main player. Just don’t add too much bourbon- it won’t freeze properly. And because I didn’t use an ice cream maker, it’s more of a granita. So that’s what we’ll officially call it:

Influenza Granita.

Granita (in Italian also granita siciliana) is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings. Originally from Sicily, although available all over Italy (but granita in Sicily is somewhat different from the rest of Italy), it is related to sorbet and italian ice. However, in most of Sicily, it has a coarser, more crystalline texture. Food writer Jeffrey Steingarten says that “the desired texture seems to vary from city to city” on the island; on the west coast and in Palermo, it is at its chunkiest, and in the east it is nearly as smooth as sorbet.[1] This is largely the result of different freezing techniques: the smoother types are produced in a gelato machine, while the coarser varieties are frozen with only occasional agitation, then scraped or shaved to produce separated crystals. Although its texture varies from coarse to smooth, it is always different from the one of an ice cream which is creamier, and from the one of a sorbet, which is more compact; this makes granita distinct and unique.

Influenza, commonly known as the ‘flu’ , is an infectious disease of birds and mammals caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae, the influenza viruses. The most common symptoms are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, headache (often severe), coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort.[1]Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the common cold, influenza is a more severe disease caused by a different type of virus.[2] Influenza may produce nausea and vomiting, particularly in children,[1] but these symptoms are more common in the unrelated gastroenteritis, which is sometimes inaccurately referred to as “stomach flu” or “24-hour flu”.[3]

INFLUENZA GRANITA, A.K.A. THE FLU FIGHTING SORBET

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed, but a low sugar or all-natural bottled variety will work)
  • 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice, but it must be fresh squeezed!)
  • 1/4 cup regular lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus two tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon GOOD bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • anywhere from a pinch to 1/4 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper, depending on taste or intensity of illness

Directions:

  1. Put the orange & lemon juices & sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat to dissolve sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, raise heat to medium & add honey, 2 tablespoons of bourbon, ginger & cayenne. Stir well. Bring to a boil.
  2. Once everything is boiled, add the last teaspoon bourbon. Stir. Strain into a container and let cool to almost room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from freezer and whisk to crush ice crystals. Re-wrap and re-freeze. Continue doing this once every hour for 4-5 hours with either a whisk or a fork.
  3. Before you serve, if the mixture is still too chunky or icy, simply beat (in a cold bowl) with an electric mixer on low until fluffy. DO NOT LET IT MELT. Place it back into container and re-freeze until it sets. Serve & enjoy!

If you’ve got an ice cream maker or attachment (like I do, but I forgot to freeze the bowl before hand so I had to do this the manual way), then you can just freeze it according to the manufacturer’s directions. You’ll end up, most likely, with a smoother, softer less chunky version. More like sorbet, less like Italian ice. It doesn’t really matter what the texture is, though, as long as it isn’t just a crunchy block of ice. And even then, you could really just shave off pieces to eat. So it doesn’t matter much what you end up with. Oh- and Meyer lemons are way sweeter than regular lemons. So if you use all regular lemons, you might want to up the sugar amount. Remember: the cold lessens & dulls the sweetness of the sugar, but also remember that too much sugar will result in the same problem as too much bourbon in that it just won’t freeze properly.

Now, in no way am I telling you this will cure your flu (or your cold, or pneumonia or whatever you’re suffering with). What I will say is that there’s a lot of Vitamin C in here, and in addition honey, lemon & ginger are known for their flu-fighting properties. Cayenne pepper thins mucus, allowing you to breathe again. Plus, not only is bourbon an old-timey “helper” for all illnesses, it helps numb a sore throat a bit, as does the bracing cold iciness of the granita. No dairy to increase mucus production, either!

And if you want something hot to soothe what ails you, then you should definitely make a few jars of spiced honey. I guarantee you between this granita & some hot tea with spiced honey in it, you’ll be feeling better in no time. And if you aren’t… there’s always that NyQuil too.

Cold & flu season be damned.

Yup. It’s that time of year again. FLU SEASON.

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Confession time: I have never gotten a flu shot. Ever. Not when my mother was on chemo, not when my grandmother was over 90 years old and I was taking care of her, not when I took the train into Manhattan every day during the winter with sweaty, stinky people coughing & sneezing all over me. Not even when I was still in college & they “highly recommended it.” I never once got the flu, and in turn never once gave anyone else the flu. And don’t lecture me- I don’t plan on ever getting a flu shot, unless I’m in a compromising situation health-wise. First of all, I recently read a study that said that green tea supplements actually worked better to prevent the flu than vaccinations. And also, another study that said due to the aluminum content in the shots, adults who received 5 or more flu shots were 10% more likely to get Alzheimer’s than those who had 2 or fewer. And that was substantiated by an article I had read last year. True or not true, substantiated or not, outdated or not, it brings up a lot of questions. And it doesn’t seem like a risk I’d like to take. I realize health is not something to play around with. I’m not anti-vaccinations (quite the opposite actually), I especially think they’re important for children, and I would never tell anyone else what to do. I’m just not over-dramatic when it comes to my own health. I realize the flu can be serious… but I’m not in a high-risk group. I’m healthy. I’m not pregnant. I don’t have asthma or diabetes. And I much prefer to take my chances and avoid the doctor as much as possible. If I can’t cure it with NyQuil, orange juice, Tylenol and brandy/whiskey, then and only then do I consider a trip to the professionals. I haven’t taken antibiotics in over 4 years.

Why am I telling you this? Because this post is about something you can make and can up that just might help ease some of the misery you might be put through later on in the season, whether you get a flu shot or not.

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It’s spiced honey! Very simple to make, very cheap to make, and it has a lot of health benefits.

Honey historically as been used by humans to treat a variety of ailments, from gastric disturbances to ulcers, wounds and burns, through ingestion or topical application, but only recently have the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of honey been chemically explained. Different honeys have different properties, which was known since ancient times. Much scientific research has been done, with emphasis of late on fighting infections in wounds. The antibacterial mechanisms known to date are H2O2, methylglyoxal(MGO), bee defensin-1, the osmotic effect and the pH.

In Ayurveda, a 4000-year-old medicine originating from India, honey is considered to positively affect all three primitive material imbalances of the body. “Vaatalam guru sheetam cha raktapittakaphapaham| Sandhatru cchedanam ruksham kashayam madhuram madhu|| “It has sweetness with added astringent as end taste. It is heavy, dry and cold. Its effect on doshas (imbalances) is that it aggravates vata (air / moving forces), scrapes kapha (mucus / holding forces) and normalizes pitta (catabolic fire) and rakta (blood). It promotes the healing process.” Some wound gels which contain antibacterial raw honey and have regulatory approval are now available to help treat drug-resistant strains of bacteria (MRSA). One New Zealand researcher says a particular type of honey (manuka honey) may be useful in treating MRSA infections.) As an antimicrobial agent honey is useful in treating a variety of ailments. Antibacterial properties of honey are the result of the low water activity causing osmosis, chelation of free Iron, its slow release of hydrogen peroxide,[74] high acidity,[75] and the antibacterial activity of methylglyoxal.

Honey also appears to be effective in killing drug-resistant biofilms which are implicated in chronic rhinosinusitis.

Lemon contains Vitamin C, which helps repel toxins. The low pH of juice makes it antibacterial.

Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes”. A study conducted in 2007 and published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry suggests that specific plant terpenoids contained within cinnamon have potent antiviral properties.

Pharmacological experiments suggest that the cinnamon-derived dietary factor cinnamic aldehyde (cinnamaldehyde) activates the Nrf2-dependent antioxidant response in human epithelial colon cells and may therefore represent an experimental chemopreventive dietary factor targeting colorectal carcinogenesis.[34] Recent research documents anti-melanoma activity of cinnamic aldehyde observed in cell culture and a mouse model of human melanoma.Cinnamon bark, a component of the traditional Japanese medicine Mao-to, has been shown in a 2008 study published in the Journal of General Virology to have an antiviral therapeutic effect. A 2011 study isolated a substance (CEppt) in the cinnamon plant that inhibits development of Alzheimer’s in mice. CEppt, an extract of cinnamon bark, seems to treat a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

Cloves (and clove oil) have long been shown in Western studies to assist in aiding with dental pain.However, studies to determine its effectiveness for fever reduction, as a mosquito repellent and to prevent premature ejaculation have been inconclusive. Clove may reduce blood sugar levels.

Tellimagrandin II is an ellagitannin found in S. aromaticum with anti-herpes virus properties. The clove buds have anti-oxidant properties.

But more than any of that- honey is just soothing, especially when ingested in a warm cup of something. So it stands to reason that some honey with lemon, cinnamon and cloves is something you’d want to make and have on hand for those miserable winter days when you wake up feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck, barely able to swallow. But really, it’s equally delicious in a cup of hot black tea (or even better for your health: green tea) right before bed on a cold fall or winter night. You don’t have to be sick to appreciate it. Stir some of this into some hot apple cider. Hell, you can have a little in a glass of Jack Daniels too. They make that honey stuff, don’t they? Why not a spiced honey Jack cocktail?


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SPICED HONEY

Makes three 8-ounce (half-pint) jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 organic lemon, washed thoroughly, end pieces removed and cut into 6 even slices
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (4 inches long)
  • 2 2/3 cups liquid honey

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jars, put your lids in hot water and prepare your water bath canner.
  2. Stud the peel of each lemon slice with two cloves. In a stainless steel saucepan, combine lemon slices, cinnamon sticks and honey. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil gently for 2 minutes.
  3. Using tongs, remove lemon slices from honey mixture and place two in each (still hot) jar. Add 1 cinnamon stick to each jar. Ladle the hot honey into the jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Place lids and bands, turning to fingertip tight, and place jars in canner.
  4. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars. Cool, check seal, then store.

Add it to your tea or even drizzle it on your toast. You don’t even have to be sick to enjoy it! It only makes 3 8-oz. jars, and takes no time to pull together. I think you should try making some… in a few months, you might just be glad you did. Especially since the peak of flu season is in February. That’s a long way off, dudes.

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Instead of making 3- 8 oz. jars, I made 2 jars: one 16 oz. and one 8 oz. Not for anything, but a jar of this tied up with a pretty bow and a cute honey dipper would be a great gift to give someone. Not just for a get well gift (although that’s a great idea!), but even for the holidays. Or to bring as a hostess gift on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Just tie a note on it telling them it’s not just for when you’re sick… and they should try it in some hot brandy punch.

I also used two different kinds of honey mixed together, one was a bit lighter in color than the other. Strangely enough, the larger jar I made came out with a deeper color than the smaller jar. Not sure why. It could have been that one honey was a thicker or heavier consistency than the other, and the order in which I poured it into the jars factored in. If you use a flowery honey or Golden Blossom Honey, you’ll get a different flavor. Not a bad flavor at all, it’ll just have more complex notes than the lemon/clove/cinnamon. Also… honey does not expire. A sealed jar of honey can last forever (literally… ). And you don’t have to refrigerate the jars once you open them, since honey is stable at room temperature; the sugar content is too high and the moisture content too low for fungus to grow once it’s opened. According to the National Honey Board:

Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage; it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor or crystallize. These are temperature-dependent processes, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define. For practical purposes, a shelf life of two years is often stated. Properly processed, packaged and stored honey retains its quality for a long time.

If in doubt, throw it out, and purchase a new jar of honey!

So you can open a jar in November and keep that same jar on your counter until spring with no bad consequences. Stay healthy, my fair readers.

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Sources & credits: American Limoges/Sebring Pottery china in “Royal Fortune” pattern; vintage (belonged to my grandmother), 16-oz. & 8-oz. Ball® jars can be purchased at freshpreserving.com.

“Double C” dark chocolate-almond conserves. And stuff.

I realized the other day that I never posted a photo of my new ‘do. Not sure how many of you care, really, but there might be another freak like me out there who’s interested in what a blogger’s hair looks like. It’s blonde now! Well the “long” part is. The “shaved” part is still my natural color, brown. After almost 2 full years of having not only the same hair color but my natural color, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed a change.

Stunning, I know.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. And speaking of what I’ve been up to, this is what I did on Superbowl Sunday.

Well, this & go to Trader Joe’s. I love Trader Joe’s. It’s a magical fairy land of fun & exciting things to eat & drink & I love it. Football? Not so much.

But anyway… those are cranberry, cherry dark chocolate-almond conserves. It’s a mouthful, I know (pun intended). But how else can I describe something made with dried cranberry, fresh cranberry, dried tart cherries, honey, sugar, lemon juice, sliced almonds & dark chocolate cocoa powder? It’s just naturally a long-winded item. But honestly, doesn’t it sound good? Yeah, I know it does. And it makes a fantasmagorical ice cream topping, rice pudding topping, a fancy oatmeal topping or even great just out of the jar with a spoon. Ooh, or on those mini-coffee cakes! Here it is on some Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt.

But what exactly is a conserve?

A conserve, or whole fruit jam,[5] is a jam made of fruit stewed in sugar.

Often the making of conserves can be trickier than making a standard jam, because the balance between cooking, or sometimes steeping in the hot sugar mixture for just enough time to allow the flavor to be extracted from the fruit,[6] and sugar to penetrate the fruit, and cooking too long that fruit will break down and liquefy. This process can also be achieved by spreading the dry sugar over raw fruit in layers, and leaving for several hours to steep into the fruit, then just heating the resulting mixture only to bring to the setting point.[5][7] As a result of this minimal cooking, some fruits are not particularly suitable for making into conserves, because they require cooking for longer periods to avoid issues such as tough skins.[6] Currants and gooseberries, and a number of plums are among these fruits.

Because of this shorter cooking period, not as much pectin will be released from the fruit, and as such, conserves (particularly home-made conserves) will sometimes be slightly softer set than some jams.[7]

An alternate definition holds that conserves are preserves made from a mixture of fruits and/or vegetables. Conserves may also include dried fruit or nuts.[8]

I like to think of it as preserves, but with nuts. That may not be scientifically accurate, but it does the job just fine when explaining it.

“DOUBLE C” (CHERRY & CRANBERRY) DARK CHOCOLATE-ALMOND CONSERVES

Makes around 5 4-oz. jars

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces tart dried cherries
  • 5 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 5 ounces dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Sterilize jars & lids. Keep jars hot.
  2. Put cranberries & cherries in a saucepan & add water, sugar, honey & lemon juice. Heat on low, stirring, until sugar & lemon juice is dissolved. Add almonds & continue to cook, stirring occasionally until combined.
  3. Raise heat to medium-high and keep stirring to prevent scorching, until mixture thickens, fresh cranberries have popped open completely & dried fruits seem to be rehydrated.
  4. Add cocoa powder and continue cooking until mixture is thickened. Ladle into hot jars, leaving ½”-inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Let cool, then check for seal.

You might notice when I’m canning I always have my jars on a towel. That’s because you should never put hot jars directly on a countertop or table; the change in temperature could cause the glass to shatter or crack, even slight cracks. And actually the worst can be really bad weakening of the glass which can cause future cracking or cracking during processing. The towel absorbs the shock better, and is of a more even temperature. Most countertops (like granite) & tables are much cooler than the jars, which is no good. So always have a tea towel or dish towel on your counter or surface for the jars to sit on (especially once they’re removed from the water-bath).

There are many other “canning basics” I’ve never gone into because, well, I’m not a master preserver. Nor is this a specifically canning-oriented blog. It’s mostly about baking; but yes I dabble in canning & also post stuff about cooking, etc. But I thought that maybe for some of you, this is the closest you get to reading a canning blog, so maybe I ought to give you a little background on water-bath canning basics. Water-bath canning is the most popular form of canning pickles, jams, jellies & both high-sugar/high-acidity food products at home. There are a lot of things you shouldn’t can this way, and that you need a pressure canner for, i.e. potatoes, beef/chicken/meats, stews, etc.  But since that’s out of my realm of expertise I’m going to stick to high-sugar/high-acid water-bath canning rules. Just bare bones, mind you. I can’t possibly go into temperatures & acidity & all that. I don’t have that kind of time, yo. For that I ask you travel on over here. But before that you can read these just to get an idea of what goes into a simple water-bath process, and maybe see if this is something you’re into.

  1. You must use canning jars if you want to “preserve” the food; meaning, if you’re making a jam & you’re going to put it in the fridge & eat it now, you can use a Tupperware or old spaghetti sauce jar no problem. If you want a shelf-stable product, you MUST use a jar specifically made for canning. Ball® & Kerr® are the most popular & cost-effective, Walmart sells some of their own brand too I believe, and for you fancy-pants out there, there’s Weck. Canning jars are specifically made to create a vacuum seal & can’t be substituted safely with anything else.
  2. You must have a deep pot. A lobster pot is what I use, but if you’re only planning on using tiny 4-oz. jars or the more shallow Collection Elite® 8-oz. jars (seen in the above photo of the conserves- it’s the large mouth jar to the right), then a deep pasta pot might work for you. Just remember: there must be one to two inches of water over the tops of the jars when they’re in the water. This is a must. You can’t just use a tiny little shallow pot that barely covers your jars.
  3. You must either have a canning rack or devise another method of keeping the jars off the bottom of the pot. Some people use dish towels folded up, some use a bunch of lid rings tied together, whatever. Buy it, steal it, DIY it if you want. Whatever works for you. Find a method that you like (or can afford) and go with it. As long as it keeps the jars from touching the bottom of the pot- you’re good. I like my plastic canning rack, but I don’t do large batch canning so it works for me.
  4. You need tongs with rubber or jar lifters. This may seem like it’s obvious, but I didn’t get any at first and then, when making my first batch of pickles I realized, “Holy shit these jars are fucking hot!” This isn’t an essential, meaning your jars won’t be ruined or inedible without it, but it certainly makes life easier. Who likes third degree burns? Not me.
  5. You need a candy thermometer. This isn’t really a must, necessarily, but I find it makes life a hell of a lot easier, specifically if you’re venturing into jellies & you especially need to know when it reaches that oh-so-important 220° F degrees. Because otherwise, you’ll end up with candy. Or syrup. Jams are more forgiving, as are preserves, but marmalades & jellies, at least I find, require a thermometer. The freezer test or frozen plate test isn’t reliable enough for me. You do not need this for making pickles or Giardiniere.
  6. You must have patience. Canning isn’t necessarily an instant-gratification process. You have to wait for things to set (you haven’t lived until you’ve waited a week for jelly to set, thinking the entire time those five jars might have been a waste of time, money & sweat), you have to wait for pickles to pickle, you have to wait for things to “gel” & cook, and you have to take the time to be careful about each process. At the same time, you must enjoy it. If not- don’t do it.
  7. Different things belong in different jars. Pickles (usually) go in pint or larger size jars. Jams & jellies usually go in half-pint or smaller. Yes, you can put bread & butter pickle slices in an 8-oz. jar & you can definitely put marmalade or jelly in a 16-oz. jar, but just remember: once you (or whoever you give it to) opens that jelly or jam, that’s A LOT to eat. You might end up forgetting it’s in the fridge & wasting it. I prefer smaller jars for the sweet stuff and larger jars for pickles or pickled veggies which not only are eaten more often, but last longer in the fridge. So think about that before you start & be prepared. The exception: peaches or fruit slices in syrup. For that, I’d use large jars.

Now keep in mind there is more that goes into it. Those are just the super basic basic basics of what you need to get started. I suggest you read the USDA’s website, get yourself the Ball® Blue Book Guide to Preserving & the Better Homes & Gardens book, You Can Can!; then thoroughly read through them. Between all of those things you’ll get an idea of the safety basics, must-haves & preparation, then I encourage you to peruse some sites like Hungry Tigress, Food in Jars & Punk Domestics to get an idea of what the possibilities are & what you can do. Then decide if it’s for you. It is not difficult, it’s not brain surgery, but there are definitely things you need to know before you start so you can do it safely.

Before you know it, you’ll be canning your brains out. Which sounds way dirtier than it really is.